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Mr. MacGregor : I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. What we should all be doing--I do not refer just to the statement that I shall make on Monday--is ensuring the proper and full viability of the industry.
Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West) : The Government have given the poultry industry the Christmas dish that it most wanted--the head of the Under-Secretary of State for Health on a plate, suitably garnished with a hard-boiled egg stuffed in her mouth. In view of the fact that a writ has been taken out by one of the largest egg producers against the Under- Secretary of State, will the taxpayer have to pay for that aspect of what the hon. Lady said? Will the taxpayer have to compensate further for the Under-Secretary of State's utterances?
Mr. Kenneth Hind (Lancashire, West) : Those of us who represent egg producers are extremely grateful for the speed with which my right hon. Friend has acted and with which he has listened to our representations. Will he confirm that last week the Agricultural Development and Advisory Service carried out a trawl of egg producers throughout the country, taking thousands of samples, and discovered no salmonella in the eggs?
Mr. MacGregor : I shall have to check the exact results, but certainly in many flocks no salmonella has been identified in checks. However, undertaking inspections of all flocks is a difficult job and not something that we could do.
Mr. Skinner : Will the Minister confirm that for a fortnight the Government have not followed the tradition of collective responsibilty? Two separate Departments of State have been saying different things on this subject. It is only as a result of being dragged to the House today that the Minister has been able to clear up the matter--that is, along with the resignation of the junior Minister.
Will the Minister bear in mind the fact that there is no way in which he can get eggs off the market without rigging the market? If there is to be rigging of the market, we should have it in other respects also. Will the Minister tell his hon. Friends that we have a many stocks of surplus coal and I should like to get rid of those--
Mr. Skinner : I am just drawing a decent analogy and comparison about the way in which the Government operate. They talk about taxpayers' money being sacrosanct. The Prime Minister is always lecturing us about using taxpayers' money. The shipyard workers in Sunderland would like some of that taxpayers' money
Mr. Skinner : I ask the Minister to remember, because he may not remember--but we remember--that the Secretary of State for Health repeated at the Dispatch Box what the junior Minister had said. If it is right that the junior Minister has to get the sack, in collective responsibility the Secretary of State should follow suit because he said from the Dispatch Box that the hon. Lady was correct. The Secretary of State and the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food cannot both be right.
Mr. MacGregor : My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Health and I have been working closely together on this issue since August. As for the hon. Gentleman's comparison with the coal industry, I advise him that the poultry and egg industry has been operating profitably on its own for a long period. If it had sustained the kind of losses under which the coal industry operated during the hon. Gentleman's party's period in government, there would not be a poultry industry today.
Mr. Ivor Stanbrook (Orpington) : Is it not highly probable that the basic cause of this trouble is a disease that has been brought about by confining poultry in unnatural conditions? If that is so, should not the industry concerned primarily bear the cost of remedying the problem rather than calling on the taxpayer to bail it out?
Mr. Robert G. Hughes (Harrow, West) : Does my right hon. Friend agree that the decrease in egg sales started before my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie) said anything on the subject? Does he accept that, now that she has honourably and bravely resigned from her post, the egg producers have a major role to play in re-establishing the confidence of the British public in feeding methods? Is not that the most important matter now?
Mr. MacGregor : I agree with my hon. Friend that the most important thing is to re-establish the confidence of the consumer. The egg industry has the greatest interest in that and is working closely with us to achieve it. One of the most important elements in re-establishing confidence is to get rid of many of the false impressions. That is precisely the purpose of many of the advertisements that we have introduced today.
Column 1279Sports Council
Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.-- [Mr Garel-Jones.]
Mr. Toby Jessel (Twickenham) : We have just been discussing an important item of diet. To keep well and fit people need not only good food, but exercise. That is where sport and the Sports Council come in. Britain in the 1980s has seen a great revival in health and strength. Without doubt physical fitness has a continuing part to play. In that, we owe much to the Government's encouragement of the work of the Sports Council.
The Sports Council exists under a royal charter which sets out its object as being to
"foster the knowledge and practice of sport and physical recreation among the public at large and the provision of facilities therefor." Led by its distinguished chairman, John Smith, it does excellent work for Britain and should be most warmly praised.
Sport in Britain has a tremendous ally in the person of my hon. Friend the Minister for Sport. It is well known and understood that under the royal charter and the Act the Sports Council is autonomous. Consequently, my hon. Friend the Minister is always scrupulously careful not to tell the Sports Council what to spend its money on, or even to look as if he is doing so. He has said so both publicly and privately. Perhaps at this point we should consider an analogy with Bagehot's doctrine on constitutional monarchy :
"The sovereign has, under a constitutional monarchy such as ours, three rights--the right to be consulted, the right to encourage, the right to warn."
I do not believe that the Sports Council would say that its Minister was always to encourage but never to warn.
The Sports Council is funded publicly through the Minister, who is in the Department of the Environment. The Minister is answerable to Parliament and Parliament to the public. Thus in practice there is in one sense an element of accountability because to uphold its funding the Sports Council needs friends in Parliament and among the public. It follows that the Sports Council needs to make it easy for the Minister for Sport to come to Parliament and ask us to vote for generous funding for its work. That means that it is wise for it not only to do good for sport, as it does, but to ensure that it acts as a good neighbour. That is recognised in its policy document. "Sport In The Community The Next Ten Years," which states :
"the Sports Council has a duty the clear message of all research and experience in the last decade is that facility provision alone is inadequate : an understanding of users' requirements and the needs of the local community (including non-users) are all needed the Sports Council will continue to advise on the aesthetics, efficiency and cost- effectiveness of sports building design." Thus it is the Sports council's policy to take into account the interests of the local community of non- users. Clearly, when any facility is provided, the non-users comprise the immediate local community bunched around it whereas the users, by the nature of things, are most scattered. No one with the interests of sport at heart should ever put the Sports Council, perhaps unwittingly, into the position of backing a scheme which is deeply unpopular and damaging to the local environment of
Column 1280non-users. If the Sports Council ever finds itself drawn into that, it would be wise to pause, hold back and think twice about financial participation, even if, earlier, it gave support on the basis of what then would have been incomplete information.
All of that applies to the Teddington floodlight scheme in my constituency. That scheme is so deeply unpopular that at two public meetings the public voted against it, first in the middle of August by 132 to 17 and then early in September by more than 400 to 12. The latter was a majority of about 30 to one against.
On 2 November I questioned my hon. Friend the Minister and asked : "will he discuss the damage to the good will of the Sports Council because of its part funding of a horrible scheme to erect eight floodlight towers, 52 ft high and emitting 66,000 W in the heart of a residential area of Teddington? Will my hon. Friend invite the chairman of the Sports Council to consider instead an improved playing field for Teddington school, but without any floodlights?"--[ Official Report, 2 November 1988 ; Vol. 140, c. 1014-5.]
The school needs an improved playing field surface, but it does not need the floodlights. The Sports Council needs the floodlights, but there is no need for the Sports Council to insist on a scheme in that location. The floodlights could go somewhere more suitable and the borough council, perhaps with some sponsorship, could fund the provision of turf for the school but without the floodlights. The dazzle from the floodlights would be powerful, brilliant and overwhelming. As with car headlights, it is not just the wattage that matters, although that is high at 66,000 W with the floodlights. The glare surrounded by blackness exhausts and tires people's eyes and sometimes causes headaches. I cannot see how families with young children can expect to get them to sleep at 8 pm or 9 pm without a total blackout system.
The floodlights would be provided for a hockey pitch which requires twice as much light as soccer because the ball is smaller and moves faster. I hope that no one will suggest that some marginal reduction in the wattage would make much difference. People are also concerned about noise at matches and practice sessions, about traffic and parking problems, and about the stark ugliness of eight tall pylons in a green area of special character along the banks of the river Thames.
The proposal does not affect only my constituency. It will also affect the constituency of Kingston upon Thames which is represented by my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury. There are several blocks of flats on the Kingston side of the river which have been purchased on leases. The people living in those flats mostly do not have gardens and they bought the flats because they wanted a view of the river Thames. They do not want to look out on ugly pylons by day and on brilliant floodlights by night. The cost of the scheme would be £380,000. It has been suggested that the Sports Council would produce £100,000 of that ; £50,000 was to have come from Shell's club, the Lensbury club, but the club has withdrawn out of respect for local opinion. I ask my hon. Friend the Minister to draw the Sports Council's attention to the club's action, which might be seen as an example for the Sports Council. A further £50,000 was to have come from local sports clubs and £180,000 from Richmond upon Thames borough council, which is both the education and the planning authority. Acting as the planning authority,
Column 1281Richmond upon Thames has flouted local public opinion by granting planning permission in defiance of huge majorities at the two local public meetings.
My constituents accept the need for the school to have an improved turf, but not the floodlights. A group of local councillors and others have been carried away by enthusiasm for the scheme and have taken a cavalier attitude to the needs and interests of people living around. All along, consultation has been inadequate, which may give rise to law suits if the scheme is persisted with. I stress, in particular, to my hon. Friend that Richmond upon Thames borough council has been less than candid in telling the Sports Council that it is being asked to put money into a scheme that is deeply detested locally. The Sports Council has been deceived on that point. In view of that, it is not enough to make the obvious point that the Sports Council has no planning locus, because that might imply that the Sports Council needs to take no interest whatever in the profoundly hostile local reaction. That is contrary to the Sports Council's own policy about sport in the community, which I quoted earlier, and it ignores the need for public goodwill and the reputation that the Sports Council wants to have as a good neighbour.
Some months ago, the Sports Council could have argued plausibly that it was not aware of the scheme's deep unpopularity. That is not the case now that this has been drawn to the Sports Council's attention. I cannot believe that the Sports Council, which is made up of decent and honourable people, would want to ride roughshod over other people's quiet enjoyment of their houses and flats. I ask my hon. Friend to draw the Sports Council's attention to every one of these points and to invite the chairman of the Sports council to comment fully on every point. I hope that wisdom will prevail and that the Sports Council will find a suitable site elsewhere to meet the growing need and demand for hockey pitches and turn away from the collision course on which it has embarked.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Colin Moynihan) : I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) on securing this debate and on speaking so eloquently and knowledgeably on the subject of the improvements to the pitch at Teddington school. I was, of course, aware of the scheme before this debate and have received detailed representations from my hon. Friend on the subject.
The subject of today's debate is accountability and funding of the Sports Council and I hope that my hon. Friend will allow me to concentrate on that for a few minutes before responding to the particular points that he has made about the pitch at Teddington. First, I was delighted to announce last month an increase of £2.265 million in the council's grant, which will have a real impact on the funding of the Regional Council for Sport and Recreation as well. Since 1979-80, central Government's grant to the Sports Council has increased from £15.5 million to more than £39 million in the present financial year--a substantial increase in real terms. In addition to this sum, local authorities are now estimated to be spending about £800 million a year on sport and recreation. Private sponsorship of sport this year will approach £180 million. So total spending on sport is
Column 1282around £1 billion and there is much to show for it. Participation has increased from 17 million people in 1977 to an estimated record this year of 23 million people.
There are now over 1,000 swimming pools compared with 440 in 1970, 1,117 sports halls compared with 770 only seven years ago and 99 artificial sports pitches, compared with 30 in 1982. We can all be proud of these new facilities and developments.
The House will be aware that I have made significant changes to the membership of the Sports Council. When I took over as Minister for Sport 18 months ago, I was concerned that the Sports Council had become too large to make important decisions in an effective manner. I was myself a member of the council between 1983 and 1985 and, even then, when the council was below its final peak of 32, we would spend many long hours discussing subjects that bore little or no relevance to our two main objectives of increasing participation in sport and developing excellence.
That is why I raised the possibility of restructuring the council in my open letter of a year ago to John Smith, the chairman. Many of the replies that I received to that letter agreed that the Council was too large. So I decided to reduce it substantially by not reappointing those whose terms of office expired in the summer and and by asking others to resign.
The new council, with 14 members, provides a new streamlined and efficient approach, which reflects the changes and challenges developing in sport today and provides a framework to meet the opportunities for sport in the 1990's. I decided to appoint, first and foremost, sports men and women-- Sebastian Coe, Richard Fox, and Maggie Hohmann. How right Adrian Moorhouse was to comment in The Times end column on Wednesday of this week that he
"would also like to see a way for the international swimmers themselves to have some input to the committees".
He went on :
"In Seoul we had a team with the oldest average age ever, and swimmers are now mature enough to deserve some say in how the early years of swimming's professional era should be managed.". So it is right that Maggie Hohmann and Mary Peters--an impressive sports woman herself not so long ago--will have the opportunity to take a special interest in women in sport. Tim Marshall, a wheelchair athlete and a member of my review group on sport for the disabled will take a close interest in the council's role in that area. It is important that governing bodies take note of this changing emphasis in representation at national level and provide positions at all levels of their committee structures for coaches and active or recently retired sports men and women who have both the ability and time available to have a vote and representation throughout their sports. Governing bodies still have strong representation through Ron Emes in canoeing, Charles Palmer in judo, John Smith, the chairman, who is a member of the Football League management committee, Peter Yarranton, the vice-president of the Rugby Union, and Norman Jacobs, one of the new members, who is a steward of the British boxing board of control. I also felt that it was vital to recognise the growing role that the private sector is playing in all aspects of sport. That is why I am delighted that David Simon, the Managing Director of BP has agreed to join the Council. He will bring the expertise needed to maximise the many private sector opportunities.
Column 1283I am delighted that the Council is setting up three new groups which will act as consultative bodies to the Council. First, there will be a Committee of sports men and women in which Sebastian Coe, Richard Fox and Maggie Hohmann will play a key role. Secondly, a group of top business men will complement David Simon's role. They will be : John Quinton of Barclay's bank, Michael Parker of Saatchi and Saatchi, John Brackenbury of Brent Walker, Neil Shaw of Tate and Lyle, Michael Lowy of the British Sports and Allied Industries Federation. Thirdly, the chairmen of the regional council for Sport and Recreation will have direct access to me, unlike the other two groups. The council will also have formal consultations with the British Olympic Association and will, of course, continue to consult the Central Council of Physical Recreation.
I know that the Sports Council is fully committed to ensuring that the new arrangements will work, and will serve the interests of sports men and women.
I referred earlier to the increase in participation in sport and recreation. I can well understand that the resulting increase in these of facilities can sometimes result in conflict between participant and local residents--as my hon. Friend the member for Twickenham illustrated today.
I am aware of the background to the case. I know of my hon. Friend's opposition to the proposed development of the pitch at Teddington and of the opposition of those who attended the public meeting to which he referred. I have discussed the subject with him on several occasions. He has worked as assiduously as ever on behalf of his constituents and has also been in touch with my hon. and learned Friend the Minister for Water and Planning.
As my hon. Friend explained, the application submitted by Richmond education authority was for permission to lay an astroturf hockey pitch on part of the school playing fields and to erect eight sets of floodlights on pylons around the pitch. My hon. Friend sought to persuade Ministers to call in the planning application before the council deemed itself permission.
My hon. Friend has claimed three grounds in support of his case for a call- in. I assure him that Ministers considered each of these most carefully, and it may be helpful to the House if I take a few minutes to explain our response to each of them.
First, Richmond had a self-interest in deeming itself planning permission. Councils deem themselves planning permission quite frequently, but they are required to refer the application to the Secretary of State only where the development conflicts with the development plan. There is no suggestion that that is the case with this scheme.
Secondly, my hon. Friend pointed out that the area has been designated one of special character. The local plan recognises that special character and Ministers have no reason to believe that the planning committee did not take this into account in its deliberations.
Thirdly, my hon. Friend has suggested that the Royal London borough of Kingston was not adequately consulted. I understand that it was in fact consulted on 12 July. What happened after that is between the two borough councils.
In the circumstances, Ministers concluded that the planning issues raised were of no more than local significance and did not justify the Secretary of State's intervention.
Column 1284I understand that Richmond council deemed itself planning permission on 8 September after a full debate. That means that Ministers are no longer able to call in the application. I am told, however, that the council has imposed conditions relating to the permission of screening for the site and to the hours of use of the floodlights and the sports pitch.
Mr. Jessel : Is my hon. Friend aware that at two public meetings to which I referred, where there were enormous votes by the public against this scheme, Richmond council sent two planning officers as observers who failed to report the result of those votes to the local planning committee? Is it not totally wrong for the Sports Council to be expected, as it needs good will, to rely on that planning decision as interpreting the wishes of local people in view of the Sports Council's policy for non-users as set out in "Sport in the Community--The Next Ten Years"? Will my hon. Friend now address himself to the points that I raised in the debate?
Mr. Moynihan : I was unaware of the presence of those officials and the extent to which they debriefed their council. The Sports Council should be fully aware of as many points as are available when making its decisions on grant aid. Of course, the Sports Council should have that additional information before it when it makes a final decision, and I shall ensure that the information is brought to its attention. Just before my hon. Friend intervened, I was talking about floodlights. As he knows, floodlights may be used only until 10 pm on weekdays, 8 pm on Saturdays and 6 pm on Sundays. The school will use the hockey pitch by day and the local hockey clubs will use it in the evenings and at weekends.
As my hon. Friend said, the total cost of the scheme is £380,000. The Sports Council has said that it will give a grant of £100,000 towards the total cost. On 2 November, the hon. Member asked me in the House whether I would raise with the chairman of the Sports Council the issue of its part-funding of the scheme. He asked me about it again today. In my answer I explained that I had no locus to intervene on planning grounds, and this remains the case. I nevertheless did undertake to ensure that the chairman of the Sports Council received details of my hon. Friend's representations to the House. This I did in a letter which I sent to the chairman, John Smith, last month. In his reply, the chairman has drawn attention to the fact that the need for an intensive use pitch in the Teddington area is recognised in the regional recreation stategy and in the London playing fields strategy. The chairman supports the advice given by his officers and by the Regional Council for Sport and Recreation that such a pitch is needed and that, to ensure intensive use, floodlighting is an essential part of the scheme.
I understand that last Wednesday my hon. Friend spoke to John Smith on the intensity of the floodlighting and that Mr. Smith has asked his officers to examine ways in which the provision of lighting could be kept to the minimum level compatible with an efficient intensive use facility. My hon. Friend will of course appreciate that the council has a responsibility to ensure that the floodlighting does the job for which it is provided.
It is on these grounds that the Sports Council has approved grant in aid for the project. Like me, the
Column 1285chairman of the council can make no comment on the merits of the planning decision, which must be entirely the responsibility of the local authority.
Having made my hon. Friend's representations known to the Sports Council, and aware of the relationship between the Minister and the Sports Council as laid down in the Royal Charter and approved by the House, I regret that there is nothing further that I can do. However, I will, of course, ensure that the Sports Council members are provided with a copy of the comments that my hon. Friend has made in the House today, which adequately reflect the strongly-felt opinions of my hon. Friend and a number of his constituents. I will ensure, too, that every view which has been drawn to this House's attention does not go just
Column 1286to the chairman by virtue of the presentation of a copy of today's Hansard, but will be personally sent by me to all members of the Sports Council.
Mr. Jessel : Will my hon. Friend ask the Sports Council especially to comment on its need for good will from Parliament and the public, and its need to act as good neighbours and not to involve itself in highly unpopular schemes which are damaging to its reputation, because they comprise an uncivilised act towards people living round about?
Mr. Moynihan : I have always had the highest respect for the good will of the Sports Council when coming to its decisions, and I shall ensure that that specific point is drawn to its attention. Question put and agreed to.
Adjourned accordingly at twenty-four minutes to Four o'clock.
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